gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Consider Poor I

on May 26, 2013

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Apparently in the corner of a little graveyard in Martha’s Vineyard there is a small headstone which is surrounded by model chickens of all shapes, sizes and colours left by well wishers on the grave of a local folk hero, Nancy Luce.
When in her early twenties Nancy took seriously ill, her parents both died and she was left poor and alone with very poor health for the rest of her life on a small farm. Nancy was threatened by covetous neighbours who wanted her land, she was tormented by the local boys and was generally considered to be a local figure of ridicule. And despite her frailty she stood up to the abuse of the neighbours. But Nancy had her hens. And boy did she love them. Each one was known by name and loved to the extent that when they died she spent what little money she had on small coffins and granite headstones for them.

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This headstone is in remembrance of Poor Tweedle Deddle Bebbee Pinky Died June 19 1871 at 1/4 past 7 o’clock in the eve. Aged 4 years. Poor dear little heart sore broke in her. I am left broken hearted. She was my own heart within me. She had more than common wit. She is taken from the evil to come.
Nancy must have found so much companionship and love in her hens, it is very touching to read her tributes to her elaborately named feathered companions. She made money for herself by writing, self illustrating with what we would now call folk art, and publishing little books of poetry about her hens and selling them to visitors. The covers of these books were made from old wallpaper. The first was entitled “Poor Little Hearts”. Her notoriety grew. Anyone who calls her hens Teeddla Toonna, Lebootie Ticktuzy, Jafy Metreatie, Otte Opheto, and Aterryryree Opacky (to name but a few) is worth visiting!
She had photos taken with her hens to sell to these tourists which was very enterprising- it’s hard to believe in 2013 when we all have cameras on our phones that back in the 1850’s cameras were very rare indeed.
We know most of this information from a book about her life entitled “Consider Poor I” written in 1984 by Walter Magnes Teller.
Sadly at age 75 Nancy fell at home and lay alone for several days before being found. She died shortly thereafter. The words courageous, indomitable, brave, devoted and loving come to mind when I think of Nancy and all she dealt with in her humble life surrounded by her adored hens.

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